Can the Green Bay Packers 2011 Draft Picks Stay Healthy?

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Mike Neal missed most of the 2010 season with a shoulder injury.

There isn’t much to criticize Ted Thompson for these days. If you’re searching for something, it would probably be the fact that his recent high draft choices, particularly on defense, have gotten themselves injured with some frequency .

Green Bay Packers’ defenders drafted in the first three rounds since 2009 have missed 29 games. That total rises to 39 games if you count Brad Jones, a seventh round pick in 2009.

It’s not like Thompson has been drafting players that had injury issues in college. But for some reason, they get hurt once they join the Packers.

The first three picks in the 2011 draft were all pretty durable in college. Will they stay off the IR once they join the Packers? Hopefully.

Just for fun, lets review the NFL injury history of the first three picks in 2009 and 2010, then take a look at the durability of the 2011 class.

2009

BJ Raji
Raji was hobbled by a sprained ankle early in his rookie season. He missed two games, started only one, and never really got going. He rebounded in 2010 and now looks like one of the more promising interior defenders in the league.

Clay Matthews
Matthews has been slowed by hamstring injuries throughout each of his first two training camps. He’s only missed one regular season game, though, and is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

TJ Lang
Offseason wrist surgery hampered Lang’s progress last season. Lang saw action in all 16 games as a rookie, but was not a factor in 2010.

2010

Bryan Bulaga
Bulaga dealt with a shoulder injury after the wild card win over the Eagles, but didn’t miss any time. He played in all 16 regular season games and will hopefully do the same this season.

Mike Neal
Neal only played in two games because of a shoulder injury. He looked good in those two games, but the Packers need him to stay healthy and contribute this season.

Morgan Burnett
The strong safety tore his ACL in week four and missed the rest of the 2010 season. Like Neal, the Packers need Burnett to come back strong and compete for a starting spot in 2011.

2011

Derek Sherrod
Sherrod missed the season opener during his sophomore season at Mississippi State with an undisclosed injury. After only playing 18 snaps the following week, Sherrod was healthy the rest of his college career.

Randall Cobb
The versatile Cobb missed one full game and parts of two others with a high ankle sprain his sophomore season. He never missed another game and went on to accumulate excellent receiving, rushing and passing numbers.

Alex Green
Green had no significant injuries in junior college or at Hawaii. The Packers will need him to stay healthy if Brandon Jackson leaves.

It’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions from this data, but there’s one thing we can be fairly sure of; if Sherrod, Cobb and Green stay healthy, it will be fun to watch.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • chris k

    I hope the 2010 draft class can stay healthy for sure!! Think we got some studs there with de-mn & ss-mb. I dont think any ofthe 2011 class will contribute much as they’ve already missed rookie orientation where they are introduced to an nfl offense, they’re missing minicamp right now, and they are gonna have they’re heads spinning. I dont think any will be ready to contribute till MAYBE late season! gonna be interesting

  • Taryn

    Like everybody else,all I can do is hope that we don’t have the same happen as last year…injuries that is not the outcome.My concern will be high with Raji,he played 85% of the defensive plays and if he is compelled to play on the same pace,if there is football,injury to him becomes a much higher likelyhood.The more dominant a DL guy becomes the more pressure exerted toward him from the opposing OL and there goes the knee/ankle and that is a killer for them.

  • CWood21

    I agree with chris k in that we need the 2010 class to be healthy this year. Mike Neal is being counted on to make a significant contribution. He needs to play, and play well, since we are letting Jenkins go. Morgan Burnett has to chance to take our secondary to an even higher level. And it goes without saying that Bulaga, Starks, Shields, and Wilson also need to remain healthy.

    I am also not expecting much out of this year’s draft class. If Clifton stays healthy, Sherrod doesn’t see the field. Cobb will contribute immediately as a returner, but I don’t expect him to contribute much as a WR until after our bye week. Alex Green was drafted for next season, not this season, as long as Starks and Grant stay healthy. DJ Williams could be worked in, but again, not until after the bye week. The rest of the guys could be special teams players at best. The loss of rookie orientation and mini camp will prove to be too much for most rookies and will prevent them from contributing early.

  • FireMMNow

    justin harrel should be healthy by camp right guys….right?

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Yes, we’re counting on it…

      • Adam Czech

        I thought it was against the rules to use the words Justin Harrell and healthy in the same sentence.

        • Lucas

          With no CBA, there are no rules.

  • mikey

    No worries… Harrell will be playing, and will make the probowl too!

    • StCroixCheese

      Can’t wait, three first rounders on the D-Line. Seems very likely.

  • StCroixCheese

    So does the loss of off season work hurt the rookies for the second year guys worse? You always hear about the “big jump” guys make from year one to year two. But you also hear about how the rookies need time catch up. So which player is more effected: Morgan Burnett or Randal Cobb?

    • Adam Czech

      There’s a fair arguement to made for either, but I would say Burnett. It seems like it would be easier to succeed as a WR on raw talent alone. Safety requires you to know the scheme, know WR and QB tendencies, and learn coverages. If a safety blows an assignment, it might result in a TD. If a WR runs the wrong route, Rodgers can just throw it to somebody else.

      • Oppy

        Also added stress on the safety in this defense due to his role as a communicator, the safeties have to declare and shift coverages.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      StCroixCheese, that is a REALLY good question. Wow. That will require some thought – and maybe a post…

  • Curley2808

    I think if you look at injuries across the NFL you’ll see a sort of bell curve with the Packers at or near the peak and the Bears at or near the bottom for last season. Unless a flaw exists in your conditioning program, you have to attribute placement on the curve to be random for any given season. I think it likely our randomly suffered injuries will be lower and the Bears’ will be higher. Can’t be sure of course, but a healthier roster is definitely something I expect and look forward to. Scary.

    • Adam Czech

      I want to know more about NFL training staffs and injury prevention. Several NBA teams have taken proactive steps to improve their training staffs and conditioning to prevent injuries. It’s not a perfect science, but teams like the Phoenix Suns and a couple of MLB teams I can’t remember at the moment have publicly touted the lowering of their injury rates after investing and focusing more on their training staff and injury prevention research.

      • Adam Czech

        The above was a long-winded way of saying I agree that about the random aspects of injuries, but I don’t think it’s quite as random as we’d like to think.

        • Curley2808

          I know there are different schools of thought on the issue, but unless you’re auditioning a new program not previously tried, you can assume the statistics exist that would identify it as being effective or not. A program found to be “injury prone” would quickly fade out. A couple years ago the Packers went with a “football position” type conditioning program that didn’t rely so heavily on stationary training. The “guru” who was brought in to install that program retired prior to the start of last year’s season (“Red”… somebody). Don’t know what they did last year. Perhaps that’s being looked at as a contributing factor to the rash of injuries. I’m sure TT and MM will act accordingly though and if it were a factor, it won’t be next season.

          • Oppy

            The man you’re referring to is Dave Redding, and he did not retire before last season. He did step down from being the Strength and Conditioning coach, to allow assistant S&C coach Mark Lovat assume those duties. Redding then acted as the assistant, to help complete Lovat’s transition. Redding was indeed a part of the 2010 Packers superbowl run, and has now officially retired, per his and the Packers exit strategy. He was brought in to GB by McCarthy (they had ties from KC) specifically as a favor to MM to help further train and prepare Lovat for the head job before Dave “RedMan” Redding retired.

            Lovat served as assistant S&C coach under two legendary S&C coaches who literally pioneered and invented the position and the programs that are utilized by most all teams in some fashion- Rock Gullickson and Dave Redding.

            In short (too late, I know), The Packers did last year what they did the year before. The injuries will be looked at (due diligence and all that), but my feeling is the rash of injuries were an anomaly. Remember, the news coming out of the offseason last year was that the team had never entered a season so healthy… Things happen.